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Florida

August 6, 2003
Homeschoolers Face Aggressive Child Protection Investigators

Social Worker Tries to Force Parents Into "Training" Classes
The Wilkins family (name changed) was homeschooling their children in Palm Bay, pursuant to the Florida home school law. Little did they know their life would turn upside down when the Dad was seen lightly spanking their two-year old on the diaper in a parking lot.

The anonymous tipster called the police who met the homeschool father at the home when he returned. The father showed the police the 2-year old and they were satisfied that there was no injury. However, the incident was referred to the Florida Department of Children and Families. A social worker came to the home and talked at length with the parents and children. Although the social worker found no evidence of abuse, she demanded that the parents: 1) take 22 weeks of parenting classes through the County, 2) have a social worker visit once a month for an indefinite period of time to see how they are doing, and 3) sign a statement of release allowing the social worker to get documents and medical records from any source they choose. Then she indicated that they would seek a court order if the family did not cooperate.

At this point the family contacted Home School Legal Defense Association because they did not believe that the law required them to fulfill the demands of this social worker.

HSLDA Attorney Chris Klicka contacted the child protective investigator who at first did not want to back down from her demands. She indicated that the family was at risk. When Chris Klicka asked why, she told him the Wilkins have a large family (four children), they homeschool and have a low profile in the community, and they do not have daily contact with trained people who can detect child abuse, such as those who run the local public school. She also admitted that the children look fine and there was no marks on them, nor any concerns that abuse was actually taking place.

After much discussion on the phone, the social worker insisted that she would need to get a court order if her earlier demands were not satisfied. HSLDA immediately responded with a 4-page letter explaining that the Florida statutes say "corporal discipline of a child by a parent…for disciplinary purposes, does not constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child." This statute further explains that corporal punishment would only be abusive if there were clear-cut injuries (sprains, dislocations, or significant bruises). Furthermore, Mr. Klicka pointed out that in order for a child to be taken from a family, or a court order issued, there must evidence that the children are under substantial risk of eminent abuse or neglect.

In this case, the fact that they have a large family homeschool, and no contact with daycare centers or public schools, is not sufficient evidence to constitute a substantial risk of abuse.

Mr. Klicka ended the letter by establishing the constitutional and statutory right of a family to homeschool and the fact that if her risk factors were applied, every homeschool family in the state of Florida would be guilty of abuse.

The social worker finally withdrew her demands and the family is able to continue homeschooling without further harassment.

Social Worker Attempts to Intimidate Family with Police
The Morris family (name changed) in Orlando was homeschooling, but the parents decided to separate for a time due to some marriage issues. When the family returned to the home where the father was still staying, they were surprised to be met by a child protective investigator.

Apparently, an anonymous tip came from someone out-of-state, who invented a false story about the father. The family immediately called HSLDA after the social worker came back a second time. The social worker demanded to interview the children and demanded entry to the house. HSLDA Attorney Chris Klicka argued with the social worker over the phone for thirty minutes while she waited on the doorstep. Finally, in exasperation, after getting one police officer, she said, "I will get four more police officers." Attorney Klicka responded, "You can get a whole army of police officers, but you still cannot come into the home without a warrant." An anonymous tip is not sufficient evidence to get any type of court order.

This homeschool family had restored their relationship, but it was nearly broken asunder by the harassment of the social services. Finally the child protective investigator and the police left the house without gaining entry and interviewing the children. At this time, a family has been left alone.

Homeschool Family Thankful for HSLDA's Intervention
The Yancy family (name changed) in Bradington, Florida, were visited by social workers and immediately called HSLDA. An HSLDA attorney spoke to the social worker and kept her out of the house and away from the children. Apparently the allegations were made by one of their seven adopted children who was the only one not being homeschooled. He had made up a story about the family and told it to his science teacher. He had already been moved from the home two years ago due to his dangerous behavior. Nonetheless, the social workers came to the door demanding entry.

HSLDA was able to hold them off. The mother said, "This is why I spend 26 cents a day. People are crazy not to join HSLDA. I have an attorney ready to help me at a moments notice." Over the next few days, HSLDA worked out a compromise with the social workers allowing the children to answer some questions with the father present with the tape recorder. The social worker and the police officer said the report would be listed as unfounded.